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Archive for the ‘chicken’ Category

Friday and Saturday nights, I put the chickens on their roosts, knowing that they are a bit high for pullets but still hoping to train them.  Imagine my surprise last night when I went to close the pop hole and discovered all five pullets roosting on their own!  I’m so proud of them.

Why is she opening the big door and flashing us with that bright light?

 
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The chicks arrived a week ago.  My first opportunity to take pictures came on Friday, when the chicks graduated to being pullets.  I had some old kale in the garden that was infested with caterpillars, so I cut and gave it to my pullets as a graduation present.  They loved it.

Okay, gals, it's time for your group shot.


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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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You can make just about anything in an outdoor Dutch oven that you can make in an oven in the house.  Yesterday I roasted a whole chicken from Falling Sky Farm with rosemary, garlic, and lemons in a 12-quart Dutch oven in the back yard.  The process is so simple that I hesitate to post it, but I know some readers would like to do more Dutch oven cooking, so here goes.

Make a brine of 1 cup salt, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 cup sugar, heated and dissolved in water, with enough additional water and/or ice to completely cover your chicken.  Drop in several crushed juniper berries and twigs of rosemary. Be sure to use a non-reactive pot–no cast iron, aluminum, or plastic for this stage.  Brine the bird at least 24 hours.

Remove the bird from the brine and discard the brine mixture, rosemary, etc.  Stuff the bird with more fresh rosemary, 2-4 cloves of sliced garlic, and about half a lemon.  Season the bird’s skin with a little more salt and pepper.  Now you’re ready to roast!

 

seasoned, uncooked chicken

 

Start charcoal, preferably using a chimney with the bottom loaded with newspaper to avoid having to use lighter fluid. (Ick!)  Get the coals hot.  Put the chicken in a lightly greased outdoor Dutch oven, either by itself or with potatoes as we did.  Add the lid.  Put the Dutch oven on top of about 8-12 coals.  Add more coals to the top.  Rotate the whole oven *and* the lid every 15 minutes or so.  Your chicken will roast in an hour to an hour and a half, depending on size.  You may need to add coals as you go, so do keep an eye on whether you’ll need to fire up some more.

 

Dutch oven with lid lifter inserted

 

Be sure not to let ashes in the Dutch oven when you rotate the lid!

Our 5-pound chicken roasted for an hour and a half, and it was definitely over the minimum safe temperature of 165-170 degrees F. It was also incredible juicy, with super rosemary and garlic flavor, all thanks to roasting in the Dutch oven.  And our house stayed sooooo nice and cool!  I wish I had a food stylist on staff to make it clear how gorgeous this bird was, but I’ll trust that you’ll give the recipe a try and decide for yourself.

Oh–do you see that juice in the bottom?  It’s the incredibly flavorful base for gravy.  Let everything cool a few minutes; then remove the bird and veggies to rest.  Whisk a little potato flour or whole-wheat pastry flour into the juices. Heat to boiling with a little sherry and let thicken.  Serve on the side.  Do be careful–this mixture includes the brine and may already be a little salty for some folks.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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If you’re trying to live frugally, try buying a whole chicken.  A whole chicken has not only meat but the makings of wonderful stock, and the sum of its parts and the stock are worth much, much more than you’ll pay for the whole bird.  This is one of the ways that we afford to buy local, organic chickens.

Making Your Own Chicken Stock

To make your own stock, you can roast the chicken whole or do as I did recently and cut it into pieces and parts for different meals.  Then boil the carcass with aromatics like onions, garlic, celery, and herbs for an incredible stock to form the basis of soup and gravy–all for much, much less than stock-in-a-box and much tastier!  The meat left on the carcass after you break down the chicken into breast, wings, and leg quarters will make superb soup meat.  Take a few minutes really to pick the bones clean after you boil the carcass.  Your pets will also love getting a piece of gristle to gnaw on!  Just be sure not to give them poultry bones, which can splinter and choke them.

On a recent night we had stacked bean enchiladas on corn tortillas, but the star of the dinner was chicken tortilla soup, in essence a soup made of chicken leftovers and a handful of other ingredients.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • half a chopped onion
  • 1/2 – 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • optional:  chile peppers, seeded and chopped (we used 5 jalapeno peppers, but then again we like heat)
  • oregano, dried or fresh finely chopped
  • chicken picked from a boiled or roasted carcass (or 1/2-3/4 cup shredded chicken from another source)
  • about a quart of chicken stock
  • cup of fresh chopped tomatoes OR can of diced tomatoes, drained  (I used canned and drank the juice.)
  • handful of corn (frozen if you don’t have fresh)
  • crushed tortilla chips (as in the bits left in the bottom of the bag)

Saute the onion.  Add the peppers and let cook a few minutes.  Add the oregano, chicken, and chicken stock.  Simmer to let flavors combine.  Add the chopped tomato or drained tomato and corn.  Stir to combine.  Heat through and serve with garnishes.

Garnish:

  • tortillas, slivered and toasted (spray with a little oil before toasting), or tortilla chips, crushed
  • grated cheese
  • cilantro
  • sour cream or plain yogurt.

Enjoy!

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Several years ago a friend whose mother had been in the antique business told me he had a rustic chicken coop that I could re-purpose.  I was skeptical but went to see it.  It wasn’t a chicken coop.  It was a six-bay nesting box that had been thoroughly cleaned and varnished.  I was immediately taken with the piece and decided to purchase it for the princely sum of $15.  I cleaned the piece up a bit more and then tried it out in various locations and for numerous uses.  My favorite was displaying antique quilts in them.  Unfortunately, right now it is not in an ideal location for you to see the rustic beauty and convenient service of the piece, but I’ve included one close-up shot.

I’m thinking a lot of nesting boxes today because we have discussed getting chickens as soon as we get back from our summer vacation.  Imagine my surprise when fellow blogger Polly’s Path told readers that Georgia Farm Woman is having another nesting box giveaway!  Oooh, if I win I can start my chickens for sure late this summer!  Of course, now that I’ve told you, Georgia Farm Woman could have lots more entries for the giveaway.  Go ahead; check out these great modern nesting boxes.  I hope one of us wins!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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We’ve had more unseasonably cool weather.  Today the temperatures struggled to get out of the 50s F, when ordinarily we’d be at least 80 degrees F for the daytime high.  These cool temperatures make me rethink both kitchen and garden.  Tonight for dinner, for instance, I served up a variation on Thanksgiving, with my treasured frozen turkey stock enriching both dressing and gravy, chicken leg quarters roasted with rosemary and apple cider (see below), green beans with onions and crumb topping, and cranberries cooked with apple cider and maple sugar.  Ordinarily at this time of year, I wouldn’t be heating up the house with this much cooking, but the cool temperatures made it the frugal thing to do.  I worked on cleaning out the freezer at the same time.  And oh my stars, the whole house smells like rosemary and roasted poultry now!

In the garden temperatures like these make me wonder if I could plant another crop of lettuce.  I know it’s risky, so I content myself that if I cut off the heads of some leaf lettuce and they grow back, we’ll have more than enough lettuce until hot temps make that crop untenable.  I checked NOAA.  Are we in a La Nina pattern now?  I can’t tell.  La Nina could change all of my garden plans, bringing extended spring to Arkansas summer.

Weather is why agriculture has always been a gamble and always will be a gamble.  If you want to feed yourself (or a nation), you must always be prepared for the unexpected.

Roasted Rosemary Chicken Quarters

  • 2-3 chicken quarters, skin on
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 sweet onion, cut into slivers
  • 1/2-1 cup apple cider (or 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup cider if you want to make gravy–see option below involving potato flour and whole-grain pastry flour)

Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees F.  Salt and pepper the skin side of the chicken quarters.  Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron pan (with lid!) that’s big enough to hold your leg quarters, tightly.  Brown the skin side of each quarter over medium-high heat, salting and peppering the non-skin side as you brown the other side.  When the quarters are browned, turn off the heat, put the quarters non-skin side down on top of the rosemary sprigs.  Spread the onions on top.  Pour on the apple juice (and cider, if you want), and put on the lid.  Bake for about an hour.  The recipe is so simple, but the flavor and moisture in the chicken could not be much simpler.

Gravy Option

If you want to make gravy with what’s in the pan, toss 1 tablespoon potato flour with about 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour with the onion slivers before you put them on the chicken.  Toss on the flour mixture with the onions.  When you pour on the cider, be sure to pour it over the onions, so that you moisten the flour.  By the time you get done cooking, you’ll have gravy.  Seriously, the gravy really is going to make itself.

By the way, this chicken works really well in a Dutch oven for camping!  I won a Dutch-oven cookoff last fall with a similar recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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First off, happy Earth Day! I thought about doing an Earth Day post, but other time commitments prevented me.  I’d like to direct you to a fabulous post from Herban Lifestyle about how to make Earth Day everyday.  Click here.

Frugal Living:  Get the Most out of Your Chicken Leftovers

If you’ve read here here the past few days, you’ll know that I got really excited by our spicy barbeque smoked chicken earlier in the week.  We have continued to enjoy it, each time with a little variation in its saucing to make it fit a new menu.  Monday night we had paninis with the chicken in a smokey, sweet barbeque sauce and good cheese, served alongside spinach soup in the beautiful bowls I won from Polly’s Path.

Wednesday I cut a  big bowl of fresh lettuces and endive from our garden, pulled some carrots and radishes to slice, and clipped some chive blossoms for what I called buffalo chicken salad.  I sauced some of the chicken with hot sauce and used that with bleu cheese and homemade croutons to pile on top the salad.  I did take a photo of the lettuce (see below), but an untimely phone call and then hunger distracted me from shooting the salad.

Tonight?  It’s Mr. Homesteader’s cooking night, but I hear that we’ll be having something Mexican and that he’ll be using the smoked chicken.

Do you cook whole chickens?  If so, what’s your favorite way to dress up the leftovers?

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Lettuce Lessons:  Selecting Looseleaf Seeds

This is the big bowl of loose leaf lettuce, endive, and a little chard I picked from the garden.  The red frilly lettuce is Lolla Rossa.  If you see red and green on the same leaf, it could be Lolla Rossa inner leaves, or it could be Marvel of Four Seasons.  The lime green lettuce is called Black-Seeded Simpson.  It and Lolla Rossa are so attractive that I think either of them would be lovely as a border around a flower bed.  The frilly medium green stuff is in fact curly endive, and the leaf in sort of the middle left with red rib and veins is ruby chard.  All of these lettuces and other greens are easy to grow in cooler weather, and the chard has actually survived summer heat and freezing winters twice now as well as repeated cuttings in between.  We like growing head lettuces like butterhead and batavian, but these loose-leaf lettuces are really easy to grow for cut-and-come-again picking throughout the season.

Do you have favorite salad greens?  What grows well in your area?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please ask me for permission to use photographs.

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We were recently fortunate enoughto inherit a family-sized smoker.  We have a nice small one that we can use on a stove top–that’s lots of fun!–but it’s pretty much limited to smoking a few servings at a time.  Today we are  using the bigger smoker for a whole chicken, and we’ve brined it to yield a recipe that reminds us of a blend of Southern barbeque from around the region.  We’ve used lots of vinegar but also lots of heat in the brine, and I added chili powder to the rub.  That means this barbeque lacks ties to any distinctive Southern soil but nicely blends our roots (North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas).

Both smoking and brining are age-old culinary tricks to preserve food.  That said, we aren’t planning on letting this chicken sit around for long!  I have never declared food “righteous” before in my life, and I don’t think Mr. Homestead has either, but both of us agreed that the term could be applied to this incredibly juicy, smoky, spicy bird.

Start by preparing your brine.

Brine

  • 1 cup canning salt
  • 1 cup tabasco
  • 4-6 whole cloves
  • 1/2-3/4 cup molasses
  • sufficient water to completely cover the bird

Boil together about 4 cups of water with the salt to get the salt to dissolve.  Now add the molasses.  Finally, add the tabasco.  Chill the mixture, and then pour it and sufficient water to cover over your bird in a non-reactive, non-plastic container that’s large enough to get the bird completely covered with the mixture.  I used an enameled canning pot, but you could use glass or stainless steel.  Note:  Had I had a pot with a smaller diameter, I could have used less brine.  As it was, I’ll be in the market for a better briner for chicken than my big canning pot, which works great for a big turkey but is wasteful for the smaller bird. Leave the bird in the brine for about 24 hours.  Now take it out and dry it off.

Are you wondering what to do with your leftover brine?  It’ll make a great weed killer.  Just be sure not to use too much, as the salt will hang around and kill nearby plants.  It’s both the salt and the vinegar that kills, although frankly straight vinegar is better than this watered-down mix.

Rub

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Sprinkle on the rub and then use your hands to even it out and gently pat it into the surface of your well-dried chicken.  Now go smoke!

We use a chimney loaded with newspaper in the bottom to start natural charcoal, so we don’t get petroleum products in our food.chemical-free coal-starting chimney

Come on, baby, light my fire!

Once you light the newspaper, the heat spreads up the chimney, starting the coals.

Our smoker has a little door through which you can feed the smoker with coal.

A 5-pound chicken smoked with low heat and moisture will take about 5 hours to smoke with low heat.  Our smoker has a convenient dial to indicate “ideal” temperature, although an actual thermometer (registering around 225 degrees F!) would be better.  You may need to add coals a couple of times to maintain “ideal” temperature.

We added some soaked apple wood to the coals for the last hour of cooking, to produce sweet smoke.

As you think the meat is getting close to being done, use a meat thermometer to check.  Be sure to pick a thick portion of meat away from bone.  When chicken  is done, the meat thermometer should register 165 degrees F.almost there!

Mmmmmmm.  Here’s the bird.  As tempting as it may be to cut right into it, please please please let it rest for at least half an hour or so before you cut into it.  The rest time will help the moisture stay inside the bird instead of spilling out.  You can spoon the juices left inside over the top if you want to take a little crisp out of the skin.

Collect the juices left behind in the drip pan and strain them through a coffee filter to get out any ash.  You can also chill the liquid and skim off any fat, although the coffee strainer should handle that too.  What you’ll have after you’ve strained is a smoky, spicy stock that you can use to make a barbeque sauce, add to soup, and so forth.

Do you have a favorite barbeque recipe?  Do you have a smoker?  If so, what kind of food do you smoke?  Do you have questions about smoked food?  Dear readers, please add comments.

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I guess if I had to explain this recipe inspiration, I’d say it’s the dried figs and bleu cheese sitting in my fridge and the chicken in my freezer.  I’ve been getting a tangy, creamy bleu cheese (blue cheese) from a Minnesota creamery that rivals European bleus.  The figs are organic but, sadly, all the way from California.  The pasture-raised chicken came from Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, Arkansas.  All of the ingredients are available either certified organic or, like the chicken, organically raised without certification.  Together the ingredients meld into an elegant dish that might work for date night.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or less–the figs already make this dish sweet)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • seasoning:  salt, pepper, dried oregano
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed (We thought 4, sliced, was too much.)
  • 6 dried figs, cut into bite-sized pieces and soaked in 1/4 cup brandy or marsala (non-alcohol alternative:  use 2 tablespoons of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar)
  • 2 ounces of crumbled bleu cheese (alternative:  try goat cheese!)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pound the chicken breast between plastic wrap until it is thinned to be about double its non-pounded size.  Lightly sprinkle on salt, pepper, and dried oregano on the inside.  Spread the fig pieces (save the brandy or marsala!), crumbled bleu cheese, crushed garlic and walnuts over about half of the chicken breast.  Roll up the chicken sushi-style, stuffed side first, and position it in the baking pan with the seam on the underside.  I used a 2-quart Dutch oven and was able to push the ends of the roll into the pan sides, helping to hold in the bleu cheese. Lightly sprinkle the outside with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  If any figs fell out during the rolling process, put them in the pan too.

Mix together the mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, and brandy or marsala left over from soaking the figs.  Spread half of the mixture over the top of the rolled-up chicken.  Reserve the rest for basting.

Bake chicken in a 325 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, basting every 5 or 10 minutes while the chicken bakes.  Cut the chicken on an angle into 2 or 3 servings.

I served this chicken with a hearty whole-wheat roll a big salad of mesclun and grated radish and carrots.

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